Commentary Archive

A look at how unbalanced scheduling could shape the Big Ten race

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Unbalanced scheduling is one of the challenges accompanying conference expansion. With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers last season, the Big Ten was forced to move to an eight single play, five home-and-home scheduling format.

It was a dramatic change from the previous 12-team scheduling format, which allowed for seven home-and-home pairings and four single plays across the league. Last season, it didn’t matter much in determining the regular season champ as Wisconsin was the clear class of the conference and finished 16-2, which was the best record since Ohio State in 2011.

That is not likely to be the case next winter as the conference appears to have eight or nine teams with legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations and several of those programs are showing up consistently in preseason top 25s.

So how might scheduling determine next season’s regular season Big Ten champion? Using the top seven teams in John Gasaway’s conference power rankings published earlier this month over on ESPN Insider, we ranked the schedule difficulty (from most difficult to easiest) of the top half of the league for next season:

1. Maryland
Home: Illinois, Iowa, Penn State, Rutgers
Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska
Home/Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Comment: If the Terrapins win the Big Ten, it won’t be due to a favorable schedule. Of Gasaway’s projected top six behind Maryland in the standings, the Terps get four of them twice. And the other two, Indiana and Michigan State, will be road games.

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Big Ten Power Rankings: Offseason edition

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It’s May and more than five months separate us from the opening of the 2015-2016 season, but it’s never a bad time to check in on the Big Ten landscape.

Here’s our first stab at forecasting next season’s conference standings with last season’s records in parenthesis:

14. Rutgers (10-22, 2-16)
· Arriving: Corey Sanders (247Composite top 100), Deshawn Freeman, Jonathan Laurent, Justin Goode, Kejuan Johnson
· Departing: Junior Etou (transfer), Kadeem Jack (graduation), Kerwin Okoro (transfer), Malick Kone (graduation), Myles Mack (graduation)

Outlook: Eddie Jordan knew it would be a long process to build Rutgers into a respectable program when he took the job and as he enters year three at the helm, there’s still plenty of work to be done. The Scarlet Knights did manage to sign a top 100 recruit in point guard Corey Sanders. But in a loaded Big Ten, any optimism for a move up the league standings in Piscataway should be guarded.

13. Minnesota (18-15, 6-12)
· Arriving: Dupree McBrayer, Jarvis Johnson, J.R. Gilbert, Jordan Murphy, Kevin Dorsey
· Departing: Andre Hollins (graduation), Deandre Mathieu (graduation), Elliott Eliason (graduation), Maurice Walker (graduation)

Outlook: Count me as a skeptic of Gophers coach Richard Pitino, who enters his third season in Minneapolis and was mentioned for several jobs across the country despite never reaching the NCAA tournament in three seasons as a head coach. Minnesota underachieved last season, lost its three best players and this is one of the league’s weakest rosters in terms of talent.

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Right call made in dismissals of Davis, Mosquera-Perea

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The message sent from IU announcing the dismissals of Devin Davis and Hanner Mosquera-Perea on Thursday was succinct. It needed no further explanation.

Enough is enough.

In less than 35 words, the program announced Davis and Mosquera-Perea failed to live up to their responsibilities. Effective immediately, they were no longer part of the team.

Both players were given second chances by Tom Crean to remain with the program after making mistakes that exhibited a lack of judgement. In Mosquera-Perea’s case, it was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol on Feb. 14, 2014, which could have resulted – but fortunately did not – in a serious injury. And in the case of Davis, it was a disregard for Crean’s advice for 20 minutes earlier that night of what to steer clear of on Halloween night. In the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 2014, Davis was involved in a serious accident that also involved alcohol.

With their poor decisions this week, when Davis was cited for possession of marijuana in an on-campus housing building with Mosquera-Perea also present, both players showed that getting a second chance meant more to Crean than it did to them. And in the process, Davis and Mosquera-Perea lost their futures in Bloomington.

The decision to dismiss them had to be made. They had run out of chances to remain a part of the program.

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The Inside the Hall Mailbag: May 5

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The Inside the Hall Mailbag is a collection of questions tweeted to us via Twitter (@insidethehall), via email, submitted on our premium forum and sent to us via our Facebook page. Submit your questions and we’ll answer as many as we can.

Anthony Baird on Facebook writes: Will (Thomas) Bryant really be that big of an improvement? Crean has proven he can’t get it done with bigs. I mean look what he did to Cody Zeller. I’m looking more forward to the return of Devin Davis!

Yes, Thomas Bryant will be a major improvement and a major factor from the minute he steps onto Branch McCracken Court. He’s a high energy guy who is coachable and makes hustle plays. He chose Indiana for a variety of reasons, one of which I’ll get into now as I tackle your second comment regarding Zeller. That reason is player development.

If “not getting it done with bigs” is putting a guy into the lottery for two straight years, I’m not sure what else you’d like to see. Zeller came to Indiana ranked just outside of the top 10 nationally in his recruiting class and went No. 4 overall in the NBA draft and was an All-American. When he left campus, he was a much better player than he was when he arrived. Those are all facts. You can certainly argue that IU should have advanced further than the Sweet 16 back in 2013, but that is a separate discussion. In terms of making guys better that put in the effort and helping them reach their potential, it’s hard to dispute what Crean has been able to accomplish. – Alex Bozich

mcoghlan on the premium forum writes: Assuming there are no more departures or additions in the Big Ten, where do you think IU will end up in the Big Ten standings?

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Is Indiana a preseason top 15 team? Experts say yes

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The early entry deadline for the 2015 NBA draft has passed and Indiana appears to be one of the nation’s biggest winners as all three Hoosiers who were considering leaving early returned to school.

Along with Maryland and Michigan State, Indiana looks like, at least on paper, a viable contender in the Big Ten next season with its top eight scorers returning and the addition of McDonald’s All-American Thomas Bryant.

As a whole, the Big Ten is shaping up to be very deep as Michigan should return to the top 25 with a healthy Caris LeVert, Iowa and Purdue both return four of five starters, Wisconsin brings back Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig and Illinois and Ohio State both add talented recruiting classes.

On Monday, Inside the Hall reached out to three of the most well-respected national college basketball writers in the country for their thoughts on where IU could stack up not only in the Big Ten next season, but also nationally.

Pat Forde, Yahoo! Sports

“The wise decisions of several players to return, coupled with the addition of Thomas Bryant, should make Indiana a contender for the Big Ten title and a top 15 team nationally.

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That’s A Wrap: Tom Crean

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Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2014-2015 Indiana Hoosiers. We conclude the series today with a look at Tom Crean.

What a wild one for Tom Crean in year seven.

The season had yet to begin, and Crean faced crisis and calls for his head in the wake of the Devin Davis incident. But his team did not crumble in the wake of the accident, it bonded together and thrived. Slipups in the non-conference season happened — the home loss to Eastern Washington was particularly concerning and a sign of things to come on the defensive end — but Indiana pushed the pace, scored the ball at a strong clip and rebounded well despite its size issues. Wins against SMU, Pittsburgh and Butler, along with a close overtime loss to Georgetown gave hope.

So did a 5-1 start to the Big Ten season. The Hoosiers weren’t supposed to be this good. One prominent college hoops voice placed Crean in the coach of the year discussion. Another separated fact from fiction in the Crean saga.

But as the conference season rolled along, the mob re-emerged with their pitchforks. On paper, the back half of the Big Ten schedule was supposed to be easier. But the Hoosiers limped to the finish line — finishing 4-8 in the their final 12. Crean did a fantastic job creating a top 10 offense out of the pieces he had. He put in the work over the summer and the results were strong — something I wrote about last week. But that’s just one side of the ball. And Indiana’s defense was curiously — and historically — bad. (Alex went in depth on this last week.)

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That’s A Wrap: Team defense

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Welcome to “That’s A Wrap,” our recap of the 2014-2015 Indiana Hoosiers. Today: Indiana’s defense.

Final stats (34 games): 71.7 ppg, 45.3 FG %, 50.3 eFG %, 50.9 2PFG%, 15.9 TO%, 32.8% FTR.

If turnovers defined Indiana’s disappointing 17-15 season in 2013-2014, it was the defense that prevented the Hoosiers from truly realizing their potential in 2014-2015.

Despite an elite offense – one that ranked in the top ten nationally in adjusted efficiency – Indiana never figured things out defensively and the result was a roller coaster season in terms of results. When the Hoosiers had things rolling offensively, it didn’t matter how poorly the defense was playing. A prime example of this was Indiana’s home win over Maryland. Indiana allowed the Terrapins to score close to 1.10 points per possession and the Hoosiers still won that game by 19 points.

But expecting those types of performances with any consistency is unrealistic and when the Hoosiers struggled to make shots, the defense simply couldn’t be counted on.

Going down the list, some of the offensive outputs by IU opponents were hard to fathom.

Eastern Washington came into Assembly Hall and scored 53 points in the second half in a stunning loss. EWU’s Venky Jois would say postgame that IU’s defense “wasn’t doing anything.” Ohio State, which averaged 1.08 points per possession in Big Ten play, hung 1.32 points per trip on the Hoosiers in Columbus, a season-best in league play for the Buckeyes. And Northwestern, a pedestrian Big Ten offense, hung 72 points on IU in 58 possessions up in Evanston, their best output in a conference game this season.

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